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 Geography & Topography

Capital: Guatemala City

Population: 13,824,463

Area: 108 889 km2

Language: Spanish

Religion: 58% Catholic, 40% Protestant

Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)


The history of Guatemala starts during the Pre-Columbian era with the cultures external to Mesoamerica. We call Mesoamerica the region and the cultural area extending from central Mexico to northern Costa Rica in which a lot of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization. The Guatemalan region of Mesoamerica was dominated by the Mayan civilization (2,000 BC – AD 250), before Pedro de Alvarado, the Spanish Conquistador arrived in Guatemala in 1525.

Guatemala was part of the Spanish Empire for approximately 300 years, until it became fully independent in the 1840s. Since then, Guatemala’s history has been divided into periods of democratic rule and periods of civil war and military juntas. In the late 20th-century, Most of Guatemala emerged from a 36-year civil war (1960–96), which re-established representative democracy in 1996.

Performing arts


Guatemala has a large range of different music styles played all over the country. We can easily differentiate the folk music, the classical music, and the modern popular music. Guatemala also has an almost five-century-old tradition of art music, spanning from the first liturgical chant and polyphony introduced in 1524 to contemporary art music.

The Marimba is an old Guatemalan instrument that best represents the folk music of the country. It was declared the national instrument in 1978. Virtually no ceremony or celebration anywhere in the country goes on without it, and in no other place has the instrument reached the pedestal of a national symbol. It consists of a set of wooden bars with resonators. The bars are struck with mallets to produce musical tones.  The availability of good wood in Guatemala made the development of the marimba easy. The keys are made of wood from the Hormigo tree.

The Classical music in Guatemala includes various musical styles such as Renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, 20th century music, and post-modern music. Among the composers of classical style, the most important Guatemalan composer is José Eulalio Samayoa (1781-ca. 1866), the first musician in the New World to write symphonies besides a sizable amount of church music.

Present-day Guatemala boasts a number of performing organizations, such as orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles, opera troupes, soloists and dozens of rock bands. The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional was founded after the 1944 Revolution. This orchestra is endowed with subsidy from the government to cover salaries and expenses.




The Baile de la Conquista is a dance that has been performed in various countries of Latin America in order to proceed with a religious conversion of the African slaves to Christianity. This dance is different in all the countries but it’s usually originated from traditional folklore. In Guatemala, the dance reenacts the invasion led by the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras.

Interesting Facts:

  •  The Quetzal is a rare and beautiful bird that only lives in Guatemala. It is so precious and delicate that when held captive it only lives for 24 hours.
  • Even though Spanish is the official language, Guatemala has 22 native languages.
  • The highest point is the Tajamulco Volcano which is 4,220 meters high and13,845 ft. above sea level. It’s also the highest point in Central America (ranked 24th in the world).
  • The official name of Guatemala is the Republic of Guatemala and the name Guatemala comes from the Maya-Toltec language and means “land of the trees”.
  • A scene from the original Star Wars movie “A New Hope” was shot in Guatemala, in the Tikal National Park.

Guatemalan community in Australia

More information on the Guatemalan Community